HC Deb 14 January 1998 vol 304 c230W
Mr. Letwin

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what review he has carried out of the effectiveness of the National Meat Hygiene Service; and if he will make a statement. [21033]

Mr. Rooker

Since the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) was established in April 1995 as an Executive Agency of the Department, its effectiveness has been the subject of constant review. It took over responsibility from over 300 local authorities for the enforcement of hygiene controls and subsequently those for the removal of Specified Risk Material (SRM) in licensed slaughterhouses and cutting plants in Great Britain. As an Agency, it has been set demanding annual targets by Ministers in respect of its financial performance, efficiency and quality and delivery of service. These targets have all been achieved to date. Full details are set out in the MHS Annual Report and Accounts for 1995–96 and 1996–97, copies of which are available in the Library of the House.

In addition, the performance of the MHS is subject to continuous audit to establish whether its operations, practices and activities comply with the instructions issued to the Service by the Ministry in the MHS Operations Manual. This audit is carried out by Veterinary Meat Hygiene Advisers from the Joint Food Safety and Standards Group in England, and by the State Veterinary Service in Scotland and Wales. The results are published. Details of MHS enforcement activity are included in the monthly Meat Hygiene Enforcement Report and BSE Enforcement Bulletin. Copies of both are available in the Library of the House.

These all demonstrate the continuing effectiveness of the MHS in driving up hygiene standards and enforcing SRM controls in licensed premises.